Director Greg Banks is the maestro of the small cast classic. His m.o.: keep the story-line as simple as possible, the characters one-dimensional, and the set filled with playable levels. Bring the audience as close to the action as possible (sometimes in the action, as he did with his astonishing Romeo And Juliet a few seasons back). Use lots of nifty stage combat (fight choreographer Edward “Ted” Sharon excels here). Let the multi-instrumental Victor Zupanc perform his musical magic.
And most important: engage actors who can quickly dial the energy up to 10, switch effortlessly from character to character and sustain for a solid hour and a half an amped up theatrical fervor. The result: happiness.
Banks employs this formula to great effect in his newest, Robin Hood (at the Childrens Theatre Co., 2400 Third Ave. S., through Dec 5). It’s hard to imagine the Cargill space used more creatively (and, sadly, Robin Hood is the only CTC show scheduled in the Cargill this season). Banks and set designer Joseph Stanley create a highly cool mélange of felled timber. Costumer Mary Anne Culligan gives the performers a weirdly effective post-apocalyptic look, in which banged up colanders function as hats, rusted coffee cans as crowns, ratty frocks as formal dresses, etc.
The four person cast features CTC stalwart Dean Holt – Buster Keaton on steroids. His frenetic leaping Robin will leave you breathless. And Reed Sigmund‘s petulant Prince John, stuck in a combination bathtub/baby carriage, is a cartoon of depth and richness. Sigmund plays the widest variety of characters, each a gem. Also excellent is Julian McFaul, whose Sheriff is marvelously (and hiss-ably) nasty.
And then there’s CTC newcomer Anna Sundberg. Wow. She underplays her scenes and thus provides a quietly effective counterpoint to the (almost) over-the-top Holt and Sigmund. A tad inexperienced, maybe, but Sundberg has a unique and charismatic stage presence that I found thrilling. Here is an actor to watch.
I would recommend Robin Hood for children. The young people in the audience were utterly taken in by the range of acting on the stage. They had a great time. Grown-ups may find themselves frustrated by the simplistic plot and the lack of compelling Sherwood Forest texture. So: bring the kids – and if you don’t have any, well, find some. Everyone will have a great time.
For more information about John, check out his (newly updated) website.